– Teen volunteer Colin Coard reads to his book buddy Keenan Clymer at the M. Allan Vogelson Regional Branch Library in Voorhees. Photo courtesy of Camden County Library System.]
VOORHEES, NJ –March 29, 2012 – It started two years ago at the Voorhees Branch of the Camden County Library and has spread to five of its branches. It’s a concept and practice that goes back to the one-room-school house. Aptly named, Book Buddies involves older kids helping to teach younger kids the fun and joy of reading.
The programs meet monthly at the Bellmawr, Gloucester Twp., Haddon Twp., South County and Voorhees branches. The details and approach will vary from branch to branch depending on the individual librarian organizing its program, but they all share the same dynamic – teens and ‘tweens volunteering their time to work with younger kids who are eager and receptive to the attention of the big kids – their reading buddies.
Determined by the individual branch, the age of the children invited to participate range between three and eight years old. After pairing the teen and ‘tween volunteers with the children, the programs typically involve the volunteer reading to or with his younger partner. Then some activity (game or craft) follows with the teen helping the child, and usually the program concludes with the buddies sharing a snack. A parent or guardian is required to stay at the library during the program, but not necessarily in the same room or location as the book buddies.
The first Book Buddy program started meeting on a monthly basis at the library system’s M. Allan Vogelson Branch in Voorhees two years ago. It’s been popular with the kids, teens, parents and librarians as the programs have spread from branch to branch in the library system.
“We’ve gotten some great feedback about these program events from both kids, participating teens/’tweens and the parents,” reports Teen Librarian Christen Orbanus who collaborates with Children’s Librarian Wendy Ensor at the Vogelson Library to present the program each month.
“I can’t comment on how many kids we’ve had participate over two years, but I do keep track of the teens since they are earning volunteer hours that they can use toward National Honor Society membership, for college recommendation letters and community service projects. Since March of 2010, we’ve had 54 teen volunteers that have volunteered 143 hours,” said Orbanus.
Youth Services Librarian Ann Marie Latini at the Gloucester Twp. Branch Library said, “I believe it benefits both the big and little kids, and the little kids love the interaction with the older kids.”
Barbara Ayes, teen librarian at the Bellmawr Branch concurs, “Book Buddies is one of our most successful programs, and my personal favorite!”
The individual branches vary in their approach to Book Buddies. Some are a little more formal and structured while others are more relaxed and open.
At Bellmawr the ‘volunteens’, as the staff likes to call them, have to attend a how-to session where they learn the basics. Teen Librarian Ayes explained, “I choose the books, but I want the kids to learn how to read so the volunteers must mention the book title, show pictures and are free to use different voices for each character if they wish.” She also gives her teen volunteers training in how to work with kids, especially in one-on-one situations or in small groups.
Book Buddies at Haddon Twp. takes a more casual approach according to Nasreen Ahmed, the branch’s teen librarian. “We choose a handful of games and books and put them on a cart. The teen volunteers and younger readers pair off, read two books and then play a board game together.
It’s a self-directed activity where we want to promote social connections between older and younger peer groups.” The program seeks to establish these connections and develop friendships around reading, explained Ahmed.
Children’s Librarian Ensor who collaborates on the program with Orbanus at Voorhees pointed out, “The craft part of the program should not be overlooked as simply fun. It really allows the buddies to bond. They have a blast!”
Bellmawr librarian Ayes sums up the spirit of the programs, “It’s all about Big Kids Sharing their Love of Reading with the Little Kids.”
The following Book Buddy programs are scheduled for this spring at the Camden County Library System.
BELLMAWR Book Buddies Reading Program
Teens & Tweens and K - 3
Thursdays, April 12, May 10, 4 - 5 p.m.
Be part of our Book Buddies Team. It’s all about Big Kids helping Little Kids learn to love to read! Teens earn Community Service hours.
GLOUCESTER TWP. Book Buddies
Ages 3 - 5 and Grades 4 - 8
Tuesdays, April 24, May 29, 3:45 p.m.
Tweens and teens get paired up with a preschool buddy for stories, games and crafts.
HADDON TWP. Book Buddies
Ages 12 and up
Tuesdays, April 17, May 15, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Teens will pair up with youngsters between the ages of 5-7 and help to show them the wonderful world of reading. Everyone will meet here at the library and pair off for fun and games. Prizes will be awarded for completion of the program. Please register on our website. (Parents of the younger book buddies must stay.)
SOUTH COUNTY Book Buddies
Grades K – 3
Thursdays, April 19, May 24, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Meet at the library and get paired up with an older tween or teen for an hour of reading and word games. Must be registered for each event. Space is limited to 12 participants.
Be a Book Buddy!
Ages 12 and Up
Thursdays, April 19, May 24, 4 – 5:30 p.m.
Pair up with your young book buddy and spend an hour reading and playing word games. Community service hours will be given to volunteers who complete the book buddy program. New Teen Book Buddies should arrive at the library at 4 p.m. for a short orientation. Be sure to register.
VOORHEES Book Buddies For Kids
Ages 3 – 6
Wednesdays, April 4, May 16,6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Play a game, read stories, and do a craft with a new teen book buddy! Registration is for a 3 month session.
Book Buddies for Teens
Grades 5 – 12
Wednesdays, April 4, May 16, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Do you like volunteering with kids? If yes, become a Book Buddies Teen Reader! You will be paired with a Preschooler and you will read together, as well as make a simple craft.
Registration for any program is available on the Web at http://www.camdencountylibrary.org/events
Established in 1921, Camden County Library System seeks to meet the recreational, informational and educational needs of its customers with locations in Bellmawr, Camden, Gloucester Township, Haddon Township, Merchantville, Winslow Township and Voorhees. The Library is governed and supported by the Camden County Board of Freeholders and the Camden County Library Commission.